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Light-Duty Vehicle Sales in May Reflect Shift to Cars, More Fuel-Efficiency

Changes in car and truck sales in May for the top six vendors in the US. Click to enlarge.

Total light-duty vehicle sales in the US were relatively flat in May 2006 compared to the prior year, reflecting a slight 0.7% decline in total units. However, within that total number, car and light truck performance varied widely.

Total car sales increased 6.4% to 731,739 units, while light truck sales dropped 6.7% to 757,925 units. The car-truck ratio is now 49:51. In May 2005, that ratio was 46:54.

Within that larger shift, General Motors took the worst pounding in the month, with total sales down 12.5% (not adjusted for sales days); car sales down 16% and light truck sales down 10.1%. GM was one of only four automakers to see a reduction in car sales from the prior year, the others being Chrysler, Nissan and Mitsubishi.

Even the new Tahoe, which has been buoying GM sales in prior months (earlier post) fell relative to the prior year, with sales dropping 1.5% (not adjusted for sales days). One bright spot for GM was the performance of its luxury SUVs, which increased sales 34% compared to year-ago levels. Total HUMMER sales were up 60%. Cadillac Escalade sales rose 56% in May, paced by continuing brisk demand for the all-new 2007 model. Cadillac Escalade ESV sales started strong with 1,097 sold.

GM’s car-to-truck ratio in May 2006 was 38:62, compared to 40:60 in May 2005.

Ford’s experience was more reflective of the general market trend. While sales of its light trucks dropped 6.6%, sales of its cars increased 6.4%. Overall, Ford light duty sales dropped 1.9%. Its car-to-truck ratio sales increased to 40:60 in May 2006 from 36:64 in May 2005.

Ford has been having particular success with its Fusion—the new mid-size sedan. Fusion posted its best sales month ever in May with sales of 14,940, an 18% increase over the previous best month (April). Combined sales for the company’s new mid-size sedans (Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincoln Zephyr) were 20,267, the first month sales eclipsed 20,000.

Sales of the Ford Focus increased 13% in May 2006 from May 2005, with 20,391 units.

The Chrysler group came in close behind GM for having the worst month. Total sales were down 11.2%, with cars dropping 1.2% month on month and trucks down 14%. Bright spots for Chrysler were the new Caliber, with sales of 12,422, and the Charger, with sales of 10,725. Chrysler’s car-to-truck ratio in May 2006 was 27:73, compared to 25:75 in May 2005.

Toyota, by contrast, had its strongest month ever. Total sales increased 17%, reflecting its overall best monthly sales; sales of cars increased 25%, while sales of light trucks increased 6.6%.

The pinch at the pump has made small cars part of the big picture, right along with hybrids. The market is healthy, though shifting.

—Jim Lentz, TMS Group Vice President and Toyota Division General Manager

Toyota’s car-to-truck ratio in May 2006 was 61:39, up from 58:42 in May 2005.

Honda also had a great month, with total sales increasing 16%. Cars sales were up 21%, while truck sales were up 13%. Honda’s car-to-truck ratio was 60:40 in May 2006, up from 57:43 the year before.

Nissan saw its total sales drop 7.3%, with cars down 7.7% and trucks down 6.8%. Nissan’s car-to-truck ratio dropped slightly to 55:45 in May 2006 from 56:44 in May 2005.



I think we will see Ford start to outperform GM in the coming 1-2 years. I think Fords R&D and product development strategy will start to pay dividends soon - particularly when they finally get their hybrid cars to market.


With Toyota and Honda offering the two sub-compacts that have the best gasoline fuel efficiency of any automaker and their reputation for quality & reliability it comes as no surprise that they are having such great sales.

I wish Ford would sell more of their European products here. The only Ford I ever wanted as a daily driver was the contour (mondeo).


Although my gas mileage has fallen a bit lately due to more AC use and the summer gas blend, I've consistently gotten 35+ MPG out of my 2005 Corolla, peaking at just over 36. I was getting 23 in my '97 RAV4.

I figure that, combined with riding my scooter to work a couple days a week, I'm saving about $130 a month on gas.

allen zheng

Get GM to bring over their OPELs from Europe!

Paul Dietz

Get GM to bring over their OPELs from Europe!

I thought the new Saturn was an Opel.


I don't think it matters what GM does from here on out. They have solidified their reputation as the big truck, big SUV, rebates for gas, phony yellow campaign vehicle maker. Reputations don't get changed over night and the American public has decided which automakers are on the side of more efficient,high economy vehicles.

Friedman of the New York Times suggested that Toyota should take over GM. Possibly not a bad idea.

Imus this morning said that Friedman was a meany because GM is producing all those "green" vehicles which run on ethanol. He also mentioned that GM gave his ranch a bunch of 2007 flex fuel Suburbans. No doubt this had nothing to do with his opinion. Imus is an idiot. Imus doesn't seem to realize that this helps GM meet their CAFE standards without actually improving gas mileage. I also wonder whether Imus actually uses ethanol in those Suburbans he was given.

An Engineer

GM is decreasing in car to truck ratio! That alone proves how foolish their "turn-around" strategy is. All other automakers are going the other way (only Nissan had a slight decrease in the ratio, and slipped back because of that).

Also note, the Asian carmakers all have car to truck ratios of more than 50:50, unlike the shrinking three.

If you believe the clever analysists though, you'd pay no attention to these factors. You see, GM has more employees opting for buyout, so obviously the great "turn-around" is doing just fine!

There are times when I really get concerned about the lack of logic in this country...

Harvey D.

Is GM becoming strickly a flex-fuel, gas guzzling, 4 x 4, pick-ups and truck/bus builder. Since they can't or don't want to build good efficient cars to compete in that market, it may not be such a bad idea.

Anyway, GM would have a hard time to catch up with Toyota - Honda and many Europeans more efficient cars.

A lighter 35-45 mpg Hybrid Cadillac STS-CTS would be interesting, for local sales.


GM could become the truck/SUV division of Toyota. That way they can concentrate of what they really want to do and not have to worry about running a world wide corporation, just a Toyota division.

Rafael Seidl

Why should Toyota take over GM? They are driving GM to the brink of bankrupcy as it is, and only a masochist would want to be saddled with GM's current liabilities. Note that the Japanese are gaining market share even in a supposed stronghold of the Big Three, trucks.

What is often forgotten is that GM has limited its options not only on the payroll and retiree benefits side but also wrt its plethora of overlapping brands. Various state laws strongly protect franchisees against the unilateral abolition of a brand (e.g. Oldsmobile).

The Saturn Sky is very closely related to the upcoming Opel GT, both of which are based on aspects of the Pontiac Soltstice and a Vauxhall (UK) concept car. Bob Lutz has reportedly said that several of GM's future midrange cars will be based on the new Opel Astra and Vectra platforms. In the US, Saturn might be the brand that benefits. In other words, GM is beginning to do a better job of leveraging its global R&D capabilities.

Unfortunately, it takes a long time to revamp a brand. Plus, GM's CEOs have always come up through the finance ranks (Rick Wagoner used to be CFO), so they downplay the emotional aspect of purchasing a vehicle relative to rational cost/benefit criteria. GM claims it has more models that get above 30 MPG than Toyota does. True, but they are all even more boring than the Camry! Let's hope Bob Lutz gets the opportunity to shift his main focus from interior quality to exterior design in the near future - and no, I'm no talking about muscle cars here.

Michael G. Richard

"GM claims it has more models that get above 30 MPG than Toyota does."

I've seen that a lot. That seems misleading at best.

GM just has many more different vehicles than Toyota, but tons of them are just the same with different names (badge engineering)..

What would be more interesting would be to know what ratio of GM's vehicle get over 30mpg vs what ratio of Toyota's vehicles get over 30mpg.

Some "Opels" are already on Saab dealers lots...go drive one!

Mennii Lin

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Claudio Timbers

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